Australian Taxation Office adds its voice to chorus of concerns about Bitcoin-related scams

Maria Nikolova

Scammers are impersonating the ATO and demanding Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency as a form of payment for fake tax debts.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has become the latest organization to voice its concerns about the rising danger of Bitcoin-related scams. Earlier today, the organization published an announcement informing the public that scammers are impersonating the ATO and are demanding Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency as a form of payment for fake tax debts.

“We became aware of scammers seeking payment in Bitcoin last year. So far we have seen over $50,000 paid in Bitcoin to scammers claiming fake ATO tax debts,” Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said.

“Scammers are constantly adapting their methods to maximise their chances of picking your pocket. Unfortunately it was inevitable that scammers would target cryptocurrency given its current popularity and anonymity”, the Commissioner added.

She also said that in 2017, the ATO received over 80,000 reports of scams, with taxpayers reporting almost $2.4 million lost to scammers claiming to be from the ATO.

The ATO warning adds to a growing chorus of alarming messages regarding cryptocurrencies. Last week, Consumer Affairs Victoria, a business unit of the Department of Justice & Regulation, within the Victorian government, has voiced its concerns about Bitcoin scams. Victoria’s consumer regulator said it had received reports of people being scammed through fake Bitcoin websites. The average amount lost is not that large – around $300, but apparently such type of fraud is worrisome.

In October 2017, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) warned the public of fraudulent schemes targeting people who use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In particular, the authority noted a number of fake Blockchain URLs and a Bitcoin survey that are indeed scams that aim to collect personal information.

In addition, data from Scamwatch, which is operated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), shows the organization received a total of 77 reports about Bitcoin-related scams in the week to October 29, 2017, with the number up 126% from the preceding week.

According to the latest statistics, Australians reported $11,033,635 lost to various types of fraudulent schemes in February 2018, with investment scams being at the top of the list of illicit schemes in terms of losses caused. The data shows that nearly half of all losses were due to investment scams – $5,005,307. The sum marks an increase of 8.7% from the investment fraud losses of $4.63 million reported in January 2018.

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